I made a post earlier about shaming, in particular classics shaming – for those of you who haven’t read it, I’m essentially talking about those few individuals who feel it’s their duty to ‘shame’ other people for not having read certain books. For example, what are considered ‘classics’, or the canon etc etc. We’re talking Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, and so on.
As a Classical Studies with English student, I feel ridiculously guilty for not having read some books. Which is stupid, because there are millions of books and who the hell can read every single one? Anyway, I decided that I’d gradually make my way through (and by gradually, I mean gradually) a few certain books deemed ‘classic’. I started with Wuthering Heights and, thanks to a well-timed university module, I’ve just finished Frankenstein. Neither were what I expected.
I’m a sucker for a good romance. Don’t you deny it, a little mush is good for the soul (and the heart, surprise, surprise). So I chose to start with Wuthering Heights, knowing very little other than the fact that Heathcliff is a hunk and there is a fantastic Kate Bush song (and let’s not forget the dance).
What I read was not this. I did not read about a gallant male lead who was wonderful, attractive and who incites me to say ‘Oh, I love you, Heathcliff‘. No. I read about an abusive arse of a man who is shown to actually beat a girl. Beat. And he also beats a boy. Beats. He locks Cathy’s daughter in a room and refuses to let her leave until she does what he wants. He is horrible, abusive and, I’m sorry, but just plain awful. WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS GUY? This isn’t romantic! This is barely friendship! When is a man who beats people romantic? No, I’m sorry, but this is one classic that I just couldn’t enjoy for that sole reason. I went in expecting a love story, and left with a tale of abuse. The writing is beautiful, I can’t deny that, but Heathcliff is not.
I approached the next classic with trepidation. Frankenstein. Oh boy. I know the stereotype images of a square headed monster coloured green all stitched together. Once again, I had no clue what to expect. Once again, how I felt at the end was the exact opposite of my expectations. Wuthering Heights wasn’t a good time for me. Frankenstein was one of the best. I adored every page. The writing, the story, the later analysis I did in class on the relation to the myth of Prometheus. It was pure class and I wish I had read it sooner so I could have gushed about it sooner. Frankenstein and his monster, his creature, were so complex and interesting and just so different. They had motives that I could understand; the wish to create, to discover, to find love, to find a place to belong (cue music from the Disney Hercules soundtrack). It was just perfect.
So, you win some and you lose some with classics. You might feel like you’re obligated to like them, but I’ve discovered first hand that this isn’t the case. Wuthering Heights wasn’t really up my street, so what? Frankenstein is one of my favourite reads of this year – and not just because it meant that when I read Vicious by V.E Schwab I understood references to it.
Moral of the story (/stories), try something different and you might find that you like it – or hate it, but then you can write a blog about it and get out all those pesky feelings.